A different spin on the William Tell legend. The protagonist of this story is eighteen-year-old Stefan Gessler, the twenty-first century descendant of Tell’s nemesis, Hermann Gessler, governor of the Swiss Canton of Uri back when the country was under Austrian domination. In addition to belonging to a family who have gone down in history as heartless oppressors, Stefan has a few other problems in his modern life, among them a lame leg and a facial scar. Both the lameness and the scar disappear when he uses a golden orb to transport himself back to the fourteenth century, and having modern knowledge, plus a little magical knowledge gleaned from his grandfather, an arrogant Stefan is sure he’ll fare well in the past. Things don’t work out quite as planned, however, especially his intention to persuade his ancestor to avoid conflict with Wilhelm Tell. The famous apple incident occurs anyway, and as Stefan struggles to redeem the family name and overcome his own personal demons, he finds he also has to contend with hostile relatives who want him gone, an ambitious Master of the Horse who wants Gessler’s job, and a vindictive sibyl who wants the golden orb.
Raised on TV images of a handsome, heroic figure as portrayed by Conrad Phillips, I was a bit surprised to find the Wilhelm Tell in this story fell a bit short of that, but must admit that, if such a person did exist, the Unhewn Stone version is probably more realistic. Tell, is, in any case, just one of the players in Stefan’s journey to self-discovery, which is peopled by several interesting characters. The level of violence, though appropriate to the times, makes it unsuitable for children or younger teens, but older teens who enjoy both legends and magic should find it an entertaining, and thought-provoking, read.
The Unhewn Stone’s author, Wendy Laharnar, will be on this blog tomorrow to discuss the book and writing in general.